I love album lists. They’re fun to create, adjust and share. But then the debates begin and the confidence in our picks is tested. Did we overlook an undoubtedly exceptional album? Did we include a truly overrated one?
But in a year with so much great music, I’d say some skepticism is healthy. It helped us look past Lana Del Rey’s pigeonholed persona and appreciate the beautiful ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ (#5). Similarly, we’ll never think of Vampire Weekend in the same way after the release of the scattered yet brilliant ‘Father of the Bride’ (#6).
Indeed, so many artists pushed past their boundaries! Personal favorites include Angel Olsen’s ‘All Mirrors’ (#8) and Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ (#9). Both women use expanded production and instrumentation to highlight and compliment, but never overshadow, their songwriting.
Meanwhile, other artists breathe new life into established genres. On his potent debut, ‘Pony’ (#7), Orville Peck uses country to tell his stories of heartache and isolation. Fontaines D.C.’s post-punk opus ‘Dogrel’ (#3) reminds us that, in the right hands, rocking out can still function as a vehicle for effective storytelling. On ‘Junior’ (#10), Montreal-based Corridor delivers some of the most driving yet sophisticated rock tracks of the year.
And what about indie rock MVP Big Thief? The Brooklyn quartet gave us the ethereal ‘U.F.O.F.’ (#2) this spring and the gritty ‘Two Hands’ (#4) this fall. I may be stating the obvious, but their mark on the genre will last for some time.
Which leaves my #1 album of the year, (Sandy) Alex G’s ‘House of Sugar.’ In 38 minutes, the Philadelphia-based musician glides from indie rock to Americana to electronic instrumentals, holding together as a whole thanks to Alex G’s unwavering empathy. He’s my current favorite singer-songwriter for it.
I stand by my 2019 picks, a year where music played an important role in tackling and understanding our current moment. And I’m open to debate because so many artists had so much to say. Not to mention, it’s fucking fun.
What matters is, I’ll never stop listening.
BEST INDIE ROCK ALBUMS OF 2019
- (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
- Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
- Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
- Big Thief – Two Hands
- Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
- Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
- Orville Peck – Pony
- Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
- Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
- Corridor – Junior
When he’s not writing about music, Carlo Thomas is a digital marketer who currently lives in Denver, Colorado.